Philosophy Course Descriptions – Fall 2010

Philosophy 101, Introduction to Philosophy: Reflections on the Human Condition (HU)
LEC 403, MW 10:00–10:50, MER 131
LEC 404, MW 12:00–12:50, MER 131
Instructor (403/404): Robert Schwartz,
Enrollment in one of the large lectures (LEC 403/404) also requires enrollment in a corresponding discussion section.

The capacity to raise questions about the nature, meaning, and quality of our own lives is one of the distinctive features of human existence. In this course we will examine several such questions. The sorts of issues to be considered are: Is there any basis for belief in God? If God is good, why is there so much evil in the world? What is it to have a mind, and are humans unique in having them? Might computers really think? Is human behavior governed by the same laws of nature that hold of everything else in the physical world? Are ethical and value claims objective? How might they be justified? Is it in our best interest to be moral? Can the state justify killing those who violate its laws?

Philosophy 101, Introduction to Philosophy: Selected Topics and Issues (HU)
LEC 001, T 6:30–9:10, CRT 309
LEC 002, W 6:30–9:10, CRT 309
Instructor (001/002): TBA

We will look at a representative selection of topics from the history of philosophy and current philosophical debates: ethics, social and political philosophy, the scope and nature of our knowledge of the world, the nature of the self and mind.

Philosophy 111, Informal Logic: Critical Reasoning (HU)
LEC 001, MW 9:30–10:45, TBA
LEC 002, MW 2:00–3:15, TBA
LEC 203, Online Web
Instructor: Matthew Knachel,

Logic is reason turned inward: it is the systematic study of correct and incorrect reasoning. As discursive creatures, we humans make assertions and back them up with reasons—we construct arguments. Since this activity is central to all fields of study, the tools that logic develops for identifying and analyzing good and bad arguments are universally applicable; anyone can benefit from a study of logic by becoming a more self-aware reasoner. It is possible to approach the study of logic more or less formally. A more formal approach to the subject abstracts from natural language and deploys sophisticated mathematical tools in the analysis of arguments. This course takes a less formal approach, focusing more on ordinary-language arguments found in everyday reasoning, and giving only a small taste of more formal techniques.

Philosophy 204, Introduction to Asian Religions (HU)
LEC 401, MW 12:00-12:50, END 107
Instructor: Matthew Knachel,
Enrollment in the large lecture (LEC 401) Philosophy 204 requires enrollment in a small discussion section.

We will examine various East-Asian religious traditions through the philosophical lens of Western metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. That is, we will try to situate their views on the nature of reality, our ability to know it, and what it means to live a good life, not only in relation to one another, but against the background of (presumably) more familiar Western religious and philosophical traditions.

Philosophy 207, Religion and Science (HU)
LEC 001, TR 2:00-3:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Margaret Atherton,

Is it "Science AND Religion" or "Science OR Religion?" The juxtaposition of the two terms, 'science', 'religion' has often assumed an implacable conflict. But why should these two central areas of human endeavor be taken to be incompatible or to be enemies of one another? What does a closer scrutiny reveal about the relations between the two? Are there further issues that cloud and confuse these debates? What do the terms, 'science' and 'religion' describe, anyway? Do discussions of the relations between them do justice to the diversity of practices and institutions included under the rubrics of science and religion? In order to examine such questions, we will undertake a series of case studies into some notorious episodes in the history of science and religion, as, the trial of Galileo, the role of religion in the Scientific Revolution, the appearance of Darwin's The Origin of Species, the Scopes trial, and the recent debates about Intelligent Design. We will also explore the emotive underpinnings of such episodes in works of fiction, as Brecht’s Galileo and Lawrence and Lee’s Inherit the Wind.

Philosophy 211, Elementary Logic (HU)
LEC 401, TR 9:00–9:50, LAP N103
LEC 402, TR 12:00–12:50, LAP N103
Instructor: Michael Liston,
Enrollment in one of the large lectures (LEC 401/402) also requires enrollment in a corresponding discussion section.

The Island of Knights and Knaves is a place where only Knights and Knaves live. A Knight is a person who always tells the truth. Knaves, on the other hand, never tell the truth. Harry, who lives on the island, says: “If I am a Knight, then I’ll eat my hat.” Did you know that you can prove from the above information that Harry will eat his hat? Did you know: 1) Given that Sarah loves either Jim or Tom and that if she loves Jim then she loves Tom, you can prove that she loves Tom? 2) that if everyone loves a lover and there is even one lover in the world, then everyone loves everyone? Learn how to solve these and other puzzles in Philosophy 211, where we will study formal deductive logic -- the science of what follows from what.

The concepts and techniques encountered in the study of deductive logic are of central importance to any analysis of argument and inference. They reflect fundamental patterns of proof found in science and mathematics, they underlie the programs that enable computers to “reason” logically, and they provide tools for characterizing the formal structures of language. This is an introductory course intended for students who have had no previous work in logic. There will be 3 exams and weekly homework assignments.

Philosophy 217, Introduction to Metaphysics (HU)
LEC 001, MW 12:30–1:45, CRT 309
Instructor: Fabrizio Mondadori

The course deals with the nature of metaphysical thinking and the issues arising from such thinking. Representative philosophers from ancient, modern, and contemporary philosophy will be read and discussed: Plato (Parmenides); Aristotle on Plato’s Theory of Forms; Descartes (Meditations); Hume (Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding); Michael Dummett (on realism and anti-realism).

Philosophy 232, Topics in Philosophy: Existentialism (HU)
LEC 001, MW 11:00–12:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Miren Boehm,

Existentialism: Is there a foundation for the norms and values we use to govern and direct our lives? If there is a foundation, what is it? Is it society? Religion? Freedom? If there isn’t a foundation, are our lives then meaningless? How do we live in the face of the despair that arises from this realization? What counts as the best or most authentic sort of life for an individual human being? These are some of the important questions raised in that area of philosophy known as "existentialism". In this course we will examine the answers to these questions as proposed by a number of philosophers, authors and filmmakers.

Philosophy 232, Topics in Philosophy: Philosophy and the Media (HU)
LEC 002, TR 3:30–4:45, Room TBA
Instructor: Edward Hinchman,

We get most of our information and form most of our attitudes about the world through the influence of total strangers using electronic media to address us as if we were old friends. Why do we trust these people? Should we trust them? This course will confront issues in several areas of philosophy: the epistemology of testimony, the reason-givingness of social influence, the pragmatics of speech acts (telling, advising, arguing, bullshitting), and the ethics and politics of trust. We’ll try to understand both why we go in for these species of influence and to what extent we really should.

Philosophy 232, Topics in Philosophy: Ethics & the Meaning of Life (HU)
LEC 003, TR 5:00–6:15, Room TBA
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein,

Ethics is the study of "the good life." Therefore ethics is the heart of philosophy, because philosophy is the "love of wisdom" and having wisdom means having skill in living. One of the basic goals of ethical investigation is to understand what kind of life is worth living and how to acquire that kind of life for oneself. This class will examine these questions about "the good life" and how one ought to live in both classic and contemporary philosophical texts. Texts studied will include works by Epicurus, Aristotle, Arthur Schopenhauer, Leo Tolstoy, Albert Camus, Harry Frankfurt and others.

Philosophy 235, Philosophical Aspects of Feminism (HU)
LEC 201, Online Web
Instructor: Andrea Westlund,

This is an introduction to contemporary feminist thought, with special emphasis on feminist contributions to ethics and social theory. We will explore a variety of questions, including: What is gender, and what relevance does it have to moral and political thinking? Are there distinctively feminine and/or feminist ethical perspectives? How might gender be relevant to concepts such as justice, care, autonomy, dependence, equality, and difference? How might it affect our understanding of concrete moral and political issues? In thinking about these questions we will be attentive to ways in which gender interacts with other factors, such as race, class, sexuality and cultural context. Please note: This course is entirely online. You must have internet access and be comfortable using D2L (Desire 2 Learn) in order to take this course.

Philosophy 241, Introductory Ethics (HU)
LEC 401, MW 11:00–11:50, END 107
Instructor: Julius Sensat,
Enrollment in Philosophy 241 also requires enrolling in a corresponding discussion section.

We shall study three basic approaches in moral philosophy: ethical rationalism, which takes moral principles to describe an independent order of values fixed in the nature of things, the ideal-spectator approach, which takes morally wrong actions to be those an impartial sympathetic observer would disapprove of, and contractualism, according to which the correct moral principles are those which would be agreed to by all reasonable beings as a basis for their community. We shall see how the second approach leads naturally to utilitarianism, while contractualism has important sources in Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy. We shall see how the three basic approaches get reflected in theories of social and economic justice.

Philosophy 243, Moral Problems (HU)
LEC 001: Immigration & Citizenship - TR 12:30–1:45, TBA (9/2-10/2)
LEC 002: Markets and the Global Economy - TR 12:30–1:45, TBA (10/4-11/6)
LEC 003: Cloning - TR 12:30–1:45, TBA (11/8-12/14)
Instructor: Elizabeth Silverstein,

Note: LEC 001, 002, & 003 are worth one credit each. You do not have to enroll for all three sections.

Each section of the course will begin with the presentation of ethical tools that will be useful in our examination and discussion of particular moral problems related to the chosen topics. The goal of the course(s) is to come to a deeper understanding of the issues involved in complex moral problems and too be able to better assess and argue for one’s position with regard to such issues.

243-001 – Immigration and Citizenship:
This five-week course will be concerned with moral issues related to immigration and citizenship. We will address questions such as: What rights and obligations do citizens have? Can one be a "citizen of the world"? Do people have a right to immigrate or emigrate as they wish? What are a nation’s obligations to those who wish to immigrate to their country? Issues related to race, racism, and discrimination in immigration and citizenship policies will also be addressed.

243-002 – Markets and the Global Economy:
This five-week course will examine moral problems related to Markets and the Global Economy, such as: Do corporations have moral and social responsibilities beyond maximizing profits within the law? If so, what are they? Should fund manager’s responsibility to their clients extend to making sure their money is used in a moral way? What is the moral status of globalization? What are responsibilities to the poor on a global level?

243-003 – Cloning:
This five-week course will examine moral problems related to cloning. We will address issues related to both therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning with the focus primarily on the latter. We will address the following questions: Do we have a reproductive right to have genetically related children? Does cloning violate the dignity of the individual cloned and/or of the clone? What are the potential abuses of cloning? Does the risk of such abuse make cloning impermissible? Do the potential benefits of human cloning outweigh the risks required to make it possible? If not, is it impermissible to take such risks?

Philosophy 243 Moral Problems (HU)
LEC 204: Abortion - Online/Web, (9/2-10/2)
LEC 205: Euthanasia - Online/Web, (10/4-11/6)
LEC 206: Global Issues & Globalization - Online/Web, (11/8-12/14)
Instructor: Miren Boehm,

Note: LEC 204, 205, & 206 are worth one credit each. You do not have to enroll for all three sections.

243-204, Abortion:
Is it morally right to abort a fetus? Does the answer to this question depend on whether or not the fetus is a person? What is a person, anyway? Does a person have a right to life? And what rights does the mother have to determine her life? What does religion have to say about abortion? What does the law say? How is the question to be considered from a moral or ethical point of view? Does feminism have a particular point of view on the question of the morality of abortion? These are a few of the questions we discuss in this section.

243-205, Euthanasia:
The goal of this course is to understand the issue of the morality of euthanasia. Are we ever justified in helping someone die? How can we best understand the relation between the obligation we have to help those in need and the right to autonomy? We believe that people have a right to live as they want. Do they also have a right to end their lives? Why or why not? And when are we justified, if ever, in making this most personal decision for others? Does extreme pain or lack of hope for a dignified life justify "mercy killing"? Is merely being alive valuable? Is the important, moral concept "life" or a "meaningful life"? These are a few of the questions we discuss in this section.

243-206, Global Issues & Globalization:
This course raises some fundamental questions regarding the nature of our relation to the less fortunate and to the victims of discrimination. It raises questions about our individual obligations to others and our collective obligations to others. We shall examine and question our conceptual, moral schemas, starting with our distinction between obligation and charity. We discuss the topics of the distribution of responsibilities in a world swamped in suffering, the population problem, the problem of gender inequalities across the world, and the rights of individuals in the global community.

Philosophy 244, Ethical Issues in Health Care: Contemporary Problems (HU)
LEC 001, R 6:00–8:40, BOL B64
Instructor: Kristin Tym,

This course will provide a general overview of many of the challenging ethical issues faced in health care delivery today. We will begin the course with an introduction of ethical theories and other approaches to moral decision-making. These theories and approaches will then be applied to ethical problems currently confronting health care providers, patients and their families, and society at large. Issues we will consider include informed consent and confidentiality, futility and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, euthanasia and assisted suicide, assisted reproduction, genetics, allocation of scarce resources and research ethics.

Philosophy 250, Philosophy of Religion (HU)
LEC 401, TR 10:00–10:50, BOL B40
Instructor: William Bristow,
Enrollment in LEC 401 requires enrolling in a corresponding discussion section.

In this course we bring philosophical reasoning to bear on central questions concerning religious doctrine and faith. Some major questions we will address in this course are: What do (or should) we mean by "God"? Can the proposition that God exists be proved on the basis of unaided reason? Or does reason in fact support atheism? What is religious faith? Must one have religious faith in order to be moral? Or, alternatively, is there an irresolvable tension between the demands of morality and the demands of religious faith? Is the existence of evil compatible with the existence of an all-powerful, benevolent creator God? Is the hypothesis of an after-life reasonable or intelligible? -- We engage these and other related questions by studying and discussing texts from major philosophers and religious thinkers in various traditions.

Philosophy 303, Theory of Knowledge
LEC 001, TR 11:00–12:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Edward Hinchman,
Prereq: jr st.; Philos 101(P), 201(P), or 215(P)

This course covers some of the background to contemporary epistemology. We'll read some of the works, all written in the past 50 years and most written in the past 20, that set the framework for current work in the field. At the end of the term, you should be able to pick up the latest philosophy journals and read many of the articles in epistemology with understanding. Topics covered include skepticism, truth, testimony, self-deception, and the natures of judgment, belief and knowledge.

Philosophy 332, Philosophical Problems: Philosophy & Popular Culture
LEC 001, MW 9:30–10:45, CRT 309
Instructor: Aaron Schiller,
Prereq: jr st.; 3 cr in philos.

What do you think of when you hear the word “philosophy”? A bunch of old Greeks in togas, perhaps? The fact is that philosophy is all around us. Anything can be looked at philosophically. Ever heard of the philosophy of food? That’s a thing. So is the philosophy of Harley Davidson. And: the philosophy of baseball; zombies; Radiohead; and on and on. Taught by the editor of Stephen Colbert and Philosophy, this course seeks to prove that nothing is beyond philosophical reflection. Assignments include watching films, listening to music, and eating.

Philosophy 335, Philosophy of Biology
LEC 001, TR 5:00–6:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Luca Ferrero,
Prereq: jr st.; 3 cr in philos.

In this course, we will consider the philosophical questions raised by the nature and existence of living organisms and biological processes. What is life? What makes living organisms different from inanimate things? Could an artificially created machine or software be considered alive? Can the emergence of life be explained by natural selection alone or does it require an intelligent designer? What is the nature of evolutionary theory? Why have the ideas of natural selection and evolution been considered to be both 'dangerous' and among our 'greatest intellectual achievements'?

We will also discuss the philosophical implications of evolutionary theory: whether genes are 'selfish' and can be said to determine our behaviors; the 'nurture vs. nature' debate; how altruism might emerge from the interactions of self-interested organisms struggling for their own survival; whether evolutionary-style explanations can be applied to psychological and cultural phenomena. Readings: Sterelny & Griffiths's Sex and Death, Dennett's Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, and a selection of recent papers. No biology background required. Students majoring in biology or related disciplines should contact the instructor about waiving the philosophy credits prerequisite.

Philosophy 349, Great Moral Philosophers: Aristotle and Kant on Practical Knowledge
LEC 001, MW 2:00–3:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Carla Bagnoli,
Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philos

Arguably, Kant and Aristotle are the greatest moral philosophers of western tradition. This course focuses on their conceptions of practical knowledge, as distinct from theoretical knowledge, and connected to agency and deliberation. For Kant practical knowledge is objectively justified in reference to universal criteria for practical reasoning. Because of its generality and abstractness, however, some have objected that Kant's model of practical reasoning lacks determinacy or fails to guide us in action. By contrast, Aristotle’s account of practical knowledge is grounded on the interplay between reason and the emotions. But this makes hard to understand how Aristotelian ethics can vindicate the claim to objectivity. Contemporary ethical debates are deeply influenced both by Kant’s and Aristotle's ethics, and some philosophers have attempted to reassess their legacy by taking these two accounts of ethics as complementary, rather than as mutually exclusive. Readings include: Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Critique of Practical Reason, and Doctrine of Virtue.

Philosophy 355, Political Philosophy: The Social Contract Tradition & Its Critics
LEC 001, TR 9:30-10:45, CRT 309
Instructor: Blain Neufeld,
Prereq: jr st; Philos 242(P) or a course in ethics.

This course will look at the great Enlightenment social contract theories that helped to shape the rise of liberal democratic ideals and institutions in the West (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant), and some of the most significant criticisms of those theories from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Hume, Marx). We will also consider the main alternative approach to liberal political thinking in the West during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, namely, utilitarianism, and in particular the views of J.S. Mill. The course will conclude by considering the recent revival of the social contract approach in political philosophy over the past few decades in the work of John Rawls, as well as some important criticisms of Rawls’s views.

Philosophy 430, History of Ancient Philosophy
LEC 001, MW 11:00–12:15, Room TBA
Instructor: Richard Tierney,
Prereq: jr st & 3cr in philos

In the thought of Ancient Greece we uncover a remarkable phenomenon. The Ancient Greeks, starting from an essentially myth-making way of understanding the world and the human place in it, as found in the work of Homer and Hesiod, developed their ideas to a culmination in a theory of the natural world and of human nature and human contact put forward by Aristotle, which dominated human thinking for many hundreds of years and is still said to capture human “common sense” beliefs about the world. How did this transition come about? We will look at the changing questions asked by the Presocratics, Plato and Aristotle, in order to understand how their ideas and theories about the natural world and human nature resulted in the development of natural science, ethics and metaphysics.

Philosophy 431, History of Medieval Philosophy
LEC 001, MW 5:00–6:15, CRT 309
Instructor: Fabrizio Mondadori
Prereq: jr st & 3cr in philos

In this course we shall study, both critically and historically, the writings of such philosophers as St. Augustine, St. Anselm, Siger of Brabant, St. Thomas, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham. Avicenna and Algazali. We shall discuss, among others, such topics as the existence of God, the extent of God’s power, the eternity of the world, free will and determinism, the distinction between essence and accident, the nature of individuality, the nature of possibility, and causation.

Philosophy 433, Nineteenth-Century Philosophers
LEC 001, TR 12:30–1:45, CRT 309
Instructor: William Bristow,
Prereq: jr st & 3cr in philos

In this course we study the nineteenth century philosophical thought by tracing the development of the central themes of autonomy and self-alienation in a number of important thinkers of the period. The course begins with the study of the eighteenth century French thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau because he sets the stage thematically. Rousseau, in his Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, interprets humanity as alienated from itself under the conditions of modern society, and then, in his On the Social Contract, proposes a re-organization of society, through which modern humanity would achieve its telos of freedom or autonomy. The subsequent thinkers that we will read and discuss in the course (Kant, Hegel, Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud) agree with Rousseau's diagnosis, formally, in the respect that they also interpret humanity as self-alienated or divided against itself. But each interprets that alienation in a different way. Most of these thinkers would also agree with Rousseau in labeling the condition in which we are cured of our alienation as a condition of autonomy or freedom, but each interprets that desired condition in a different way as well. We will study their contending interpretations of humanity’s condition of alienation and of humanity’s aspiration toward freedom or autonomy.

Philosophy 522, Special Topics in the Philosophy of Science: Philosophy of Physics
LEC 001, TR 3:30–4:45, CRT 607
Instructor: Stephen Leeds,
Prereq: jr st

The first part of the course will be on the Theory of Relativity, Special and General; the implications of these theories for our conceptions of Space and Time (and spacetime). The second part will be on Quantum Mechanics, particularly the Measurement problem. If there is time at the end, we may discuss some issues in Statistical Mechanics. No specific requirements, but it would be helpful to know elementary calculus and some linear algebra.

Philosophy 532, Philosophical Problems: Metaphysics of Perception
LEC 001, MW 3:30–4:45, CRT 607
Instructor: Aaron Schiller,
Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philos

Perception is complex and fascinating because it lies at the intersection of a number of important issues. Epistemologists care about perception because it is one of the main sources of knowledge. Philosophers of mind care about perception because providing subjects access to the layout of reality through perception is one of principle jobs of the mind. And philosophers of action care about perception (or ought to) because how subjects ‘take in’ the world has a direct impact on how they ‘act on’ the world. Coming from this synoptic view about why perception matters, we will examine contemporary debates in the metaphysics of perception. Topics and key figures to be discussed include: disjunctivism, sensorimotor accounts of perception, Critical Realism, Wilfrid Sellars, John McDowell, and Alva Noë.

Philosophy 554, Special Topics in the History of Modern Philosophy: Early Modern Theories of Mind
LEC 001, TR 5:00–6:15, CRT 607
Instructor: Margaret Atherton,
Prereq: jr st, 3 cr philos; & Philos 432 (R); or cons instr.

Descartes' contributions to the Scientific Revolution in the form of an account of material substance that encouraged a mathematical and mechanical nature have been widely viewed as positive, if in the end flawed. His companion doctrine, about thinking substance, has, on the contrary been widely derided. In this course, we will explore the nature and consequences of Descartes' theory of mind through a close study of Descartes’ own views about mind and its reception by representative thinkers of the Early Modern period, such as Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley and Hume. We will examine such issues as the role of the theoretical term, 'substance', the nature of thought or consciousness, and how to understand such problematic elements as sensations or the passions.

Philosophy 562, Special Topics in Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy: Political Freedom, Legitimacy, and Obligation
LEC 001, TR 2:00–3:15, CRT 607
Instructor: Blain Neufeld,
Prereq: jr st & 3 cr in philos

Freedom is a central value in contemporary political thought. But freedom is also a complex idea, both conceptually and normatively, and political philosophers continue to debate its main properties. This course introduces the debate on freedom as it features in recent and contemporary political philosophy. The course first discusses some core conceptual issues, such as the positive/negative freedom distinction, the nature of coercion, and the difference between freedom and autonomy. We then will explore how freedom features in three important traditions in contemporary political philosophy (libertarianism, republicanism, and liberalism), as well as some communitarian and feminist criticisms of those traditions. We will conclude by considering the role that freedom plays in contemporary theories of political legitimacy. The course presupposes some background in political philosophy. Philosophers to be read: Benn, Berlin, Dworkin, Nozick, Nussbaum, Okin, Pettit, Rawls, Simmons, Taylor, and others.

Philosophy 681, Seminar in Advanced Topics: Kantian Constructivism
SEM 001, M 5:00-7:40, CRT 607
Instructor: Carla Bagnoli,
Prereq: sr st & 12 cr in philos at 300-level or above; or grad st.

This course is about recent debates in meta-ethics about the prospects of Kantian Constructivism as a theory of moral judgments. Kantian constructivism entered ethical debates with John Rawls’ seminal article “Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory” (1980). Kantian constructivism is the view that moral claims are objective insofar as they are the products of correct procedures of practical reasoning. There are criteria of correctness of practical reasoning, but this is not because there is a special sector of reality that they represent or describe. Rather, the criteria of correctness of practical reason express a shared ideal of moral agency, marked by mutual respect and recognition. According to its supporters, this theory provides a better understanding of moral objectivity and makes sense of ethical disagreements. Critics dispute that these are genuine achievements of Kantian Constructivism, and object that this theory does not contribute anything new to the old debate about the nature of moral claims. We will study several varieties of Kantian Constructivism, such as those developed by Kant, C.M. Korsgaard, T.M. Scanlon, and T. Hill, as well as the views of their critics.

Philosophy 685, Senior Capstone Research Seminar: Authority, Respect, and Reasons
SEM 001, MW 12:30—1:45, CRT 607
Instructor: Andrea Westlund,
Prereq: sr st; declared Philos major; or cons instr.

Undergraduates only.

People sometimes excuse themselves from wrong-doing by pleading that they were “just following orders”. Is this ever a good excuse? Is it ever a justification for one’s action? That is, do you ever have a conclusive reason to do something simply because somebody else tells you to? If so, what kind of reason is it, and how does it interact with reasons that you might have to act otherwise? In this course, we will examine the concept of practical authority and its relation to various other moral concepts such as deference, respect, autonomy, answerability, and practical reason. Most of our readings will be from contemporary philosophers, with special emphasis on the sharply contrasting views of authority defended by Joseph Raz and Stephen Darwall.

Philosophy 758, Seminar in Major Philosophers: Political Philosophy of John Rawls
SEM 001, MW 2:00–3:15, CRT 607
Instructor: Julius Sensat,
Prereq: grad st; cons instr

Rawls is widely regarded as the most important political philosopher of the 20th century. His two main contributions are his theory of justice as fairness and his conception of political liberalism. The seminar will critically examine these two doctrines. Our main textual focus will be two of his last published works: Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, and The Law of Peoples, though we shall refer to his other writings as needed. We shall also examine some of the secondary literature.

Philosophy 790, Advanced Topics in Philosophy: Graduate Student Writing Workshop
LEC 001, R 6:30–9:10, CRT 607
Instructor: Aaron Schiller,
Prereq: grad st; cons instr.

In this workshop, graduate students will present their work in progress and receive peer comments on their work and writing. Students will have the opportunity to hone their presentation skills, sharpen their writing, and develop their philosophical ideas.

Philosophy 960 Seminar in Metaphysics: Constitutivism about Belief and Action
SEM 001, T 11:00–1:40, CRT 607
Instructor: Luca Ferrero,
Prereq: grad st; cons instr.

For many ordinary games, enterprises, and practices, it is common to appeal to their 'constitutive standards' to address questions about their individuation ("Is this a game of chess? Would it still be so if I were to move a rook diagonally?") and the force of the associated norms ("Why shouldn't I move a rook diagonally?"). Recently, some philosophers have argued that appeal to the constitutive standards of beliefs and actions are crucial to addressing questions about the nature of these attitudes and the force of norms of rationality and morality.

In this seminar, we will consider the issues raised by so-called 'constitutivist' theories of belief and action: What are the constitutive standards of believing and acting? Do beliefs constitutively aim at the Truth? Do actions constitutively aim at the Good? If so, what do we make of the alleged possibility of perverse beliefs (believing something that is taken to be false) and, especially, perverse actions (intentionally doing something that is believed to be bad)? And even if perverse attitudes are not possible, what should we say about defective beliefs and actions, that is, about attitudes that do not fully meet the constitutive standards?

Is there a structural analogy between the constitutive standards of theoretical and practical attitudes? Many philosophers claim that whereas perverse beliefs are impossible, we do not necessarily act 'under the guise of the Good'. If this is so, how does it affect the relation between theoretical and practical reasoning?

Finally, what is the role of constitutive standards in grounding the categorical force of the norms of rationality and/or morality? Is rational agency inescapable for beings like us? If so, how does this help addressing skeptical worries about the force of the demands of rationality?

Readings from Velleman, Korsgaard, Enoch, Setya, Lavin, Railton, Shah, Haugeland, Tenenbaum, et alii.